I’ve not written one of these for a while, and a couple of things prompted me to dig out today’s compilation CD.
Firstly, on this week’s edition of The Chain, Alex G suggested a track by All About Eve, which reminded me that I had bought a compilation album entitled CD88 back in 1988 that had a track by them on it.
Secondly, I found that the ever wonderful Cherry Red Records have released a triple CD of Indie tracks from 1988, entitled C88, which, looking at the track-listing has just entered my list of must-get albums at number one.
CD88 was one of a long series of Indie Top 20 albums released by Beechwood Music Ltd which started back in 1987 and ran into the mid-1990s. There’s a pretty wonderful and comprehensive blog which focuses on these albums here.
The albums were released two or three times a year, with the occasional Best of the Year editions thrown in every now and then for good measure. CD88 was one such volume, sort of. For it’s important not to be misled by the title: it’s not a Best of the Indie tracks which were released in 1988, it’s a Best of Indie tracks which was released in 1988. Confused? Let me put it another way: it covers the first five volumes of the Indie Top 20 compilations, which were released in 1987 and 1988.
Here’s what it says on the booklet that accompanies the CD (which, I have found when writing this, also got a vinyl release):
“CD88 is a testament to the vital role played by the independent chart. Many of these hit singles have never been and might never be available on CD elsewhere.
CD88 is a collection of outstanding singles that have since become indie classics, and for many, subsequently served as the springboard from their Independent roots to major label and Gallup chart status.
Each track is chosen from the successful Indie Top 20 compilations, plus four classic tracks previously not included in the series. Indie Top 20 is released every three months to highlight the best of the new singles which have made a high impact on the National Independent Chart.”
It’s funny when you find yourself getting all wistful and nostalgic at the mere mention of the Gallup charts, isn’t it?
Anyway, I was going to just post the songs that I love from this compilation – a Best of the Best, if you will – but, on reflection, have them all, along with their original artwork. Perversely, for an album celebrating the Indie Top 20, there are only nineteen songs on it:
I’m not a massive fan of All About Eve (the band, not the film, or The Wedding Present track), but this is okay enough, and definitely fits the “before they were famous” mould that defines many of the acts/songs here, for this record reached the giddy heights of #87 in the UK charts in 1987.
If you’ve ever wondered where Chain Gang regular The Robster got the inspiration for the title of his excellent blog, then look no further.
As well as making me think of Rob, this record always reminds me of my first year at college, when me and my buddies would traipse along to the Student’s Union every other Tuesday to attend “Funk Off”, the Indie Night, and it was here that I first heard this tune.
This was before I started DJing there myself – I wrote about how I started DJ’ing at college, and how the chap who taught me to DJ had introduced me to quite a few records (here) and this is one of them – and one of the resident DJs, Jolly Jim, had played it; generally someone in our gang would be able to tell you what a record was if you didn’t know, but this one drew blank looks from everyone. I couldn’t not know, so I nervously shuffled up to the DJ booth which would soon become practically my second home.
“‘Scuse me mate,” I called to Jim. “What’s this record?”
Jim looked at me with some mixture of surprise and joy; surprise because admitting you didn’t know a record was definitely not considered a cool thing to do at Funk Off, and joy because he was able to impart some wisdom.
So the Cardiacs track was probably the one most responsible for me buying this album in the first place. If you’ve never heard this one before, I urge you to give it a listen (Part 1 of 2).
This, on the other hand, is another absolute belter of a forgotten track. Although, having said that, a few years ago, Hel and I DJ’d a couple of times at the now defunct Mucky Pup bar in Islington. I happened to be there on a night when we weren’t playing, and was staggered when the DJ played this, partly because I was annoyed that I hadn’t played it the week before, but mostly because I genuinely didn’t think anyone else remembered it, much less did I expect to meet anyone else who did. As it played, I spoke to the DJ, commending him on his choice. He looked at me with an air of bafflement. “You know this record??” he asked. Oh yes. If you’ve never heard this one before, I urge you to give it a listen (Part 2 of 2).
In the late 1980s, no Indie compilation worth it’s salt was without a track by The Wedding Present, a band who I still love to this day, as I have mentioned many, many times on these pages. This is one of their greatest (early) singles. Take it away, Grapper!
My old mate Rich got in touch after I last posted a track by this lot to tell me that this tune reminded him of when we were kids listening to records in my bedroom. I’m not sure there’s a finer definition of late 80s jangly indie pop than that.
I’d never heard of Wire before I picked this CD up, but this is great. Not as great as similar period Eardrum Buzz and nowhere near as good as their earlier stuff, but a bad Wire record is still a pretty good Wire record in my book.
This lot were, not least because of the blessing they received from one Steven Patrick Morrissey, once tipped to be the next big thing, but it never happened for them. Mostly because every other record of there’s seemed to sound almost exactly like this, but not as good.
Perhaps the surprise inclusion on this compilation. Nowadays, this would doubtless attract sneery comments about diversity targets being met, but that would detract from the fact that this is a brave and beautiful political record, latterly covered by Billy Bragg.
A side project of the Sonic Youth gang, plus Firehose and Minutemen member Mike Watt and J Mascis from Dinosaur Jr, taken from a tongue in cheek tribute to Madonna which I’m not going to name as I have a sneaky feeling that if I did, it might crop up again on these pages quite soon….
Taken from Box Frenzy, their first album where they stepped away from their grebo sound and started using samplers.
One last thing before I go: this compilation holds a special place in my heart, for it was the first record of many that I ever bought in the oldest record shop in the world, Cardiff’s “Spillers Records”, a store which became a regular haunt for me over the following twenty years. It’s moved premises since I last lived in Cardiff, but this is how I remember it:
Now that’s a proper record shop. And now I’m getting all wistful and nostalgic again.
You can read about it here, or, better still, go here and spend a few quid to keep them going.
Right, you can all stop checking the time, here it is, three weeks late, but that’s better than another super-long hiatus, surely?
More mega than a fleet of MegaBuses, yes! It’s time to check the buffering capabilities of your hardware and internet provider as we launch into the latest instalment of The Chain.
And what a selection we have for you this week!
But before we get started, some admin. The more observant of you will have spotted a new page link over there on the left entitled “The Chain – The Rules”. You’ll never guess what you see if you click that!
I mention this because there would have been a couple of disqualifications this week for (unintentional) breaches of the rules; luckily one of the transgressors realised and suggested an alternative link.
The easiest rule to break is suggesting a song which has already featured, and I appreciate with around 1000 songs having featured so far this can be somewhat tricky to keep up with. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m in the process of writing up a definitive list of every song which has featured so far, but until I’ve got round to finishing that (and writing The actual Chain takes up a fair bit of time when I could be doing that), if you want to check your options are:
1) Read every previous edition of The Chain (bit time consuming that one)
2) Check the Tags down the left-hand side; if the act you wish to suggest is not listed there, then you’re fine (assuming I remembered to add them, of course). If it is listed, click their name and you’ll be taken to every page that a song by them has featured on and you can check that way.
3) Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll check and get back to you.
OK, admin over, let’s remind ourselves of the source record for this week:
The biggest source of linkage this week was the “Echo” part of the song title, so let’s get cracking with one of mine. Since an echo is something happening again, this seems to be an appropriate place to start:
So, who else provided echo-based suggestions? Well, here’s Alex G of the temporarily (I hope) dormant We Will Have Salad to provide not just a suggestion, but also a definition of “echo”, which saves me the bother of having to copy and paste something from an online dictionary to justify some of the other suggestions I’ve come up with:
“… an echo is an acoustic phenomenon caused by sound bouncing off walls. And ceilings. And other things. But it’s the first one which concerns us here, because it leads me to suggest….”
Unsurprisingly, several of you (well, five actually) proposed records by Echo & The Bunnymen, so we may as well get one of those out of the way next, and it’s over to Swiss Adam of Bagging Area fame, with his second suggestion. (No, you haven’t blinked and missed his first, that’s coming in a while. It’s called editing.)
“Echo and the Bunnymen…sang ‘Silver (Tidal Wave)’, a beach connection there too.”
Yes indeed, that’s your first – of many, it has to be said – double linkers of the week right there. Points!
Next to one of several songs this week that I had never heard of before the suggestions came flooding in, this one courtesy of The Swede from Unthought of, though, somehow who proposed this by Cavern of Anti-Matter who, for the uninitiated (i.e. me), are Joe Dilworth and Tim Gane, formerly of Stereolab, possibly one of the most missed and most under-rated (if that’s not a contradiction, and if it is, I’m sure it’s one which would please them immensely) bands of the last twenty years or so:
I like that. A lot. Thanks for nudging it under my nose, Swede.
Which leads us quite nicely onto another suggestion by Alex G:
“When they recorded ‘Echo Beach’, Martha And The Muffins’ drummer was one Tim Gane. Another Tim Gane was more famously (not *much* more famously, I admit) the lead guitarist of McCarthy and Stereolab. [I just told them that – Ed] So I’ll go for….”
“…double link there if I’m not mistaken…” pleads Alyson. Hmmm…Echo, yes…Seas -> Beach…what do you reckon, Chain Gangers? Oh go on then: Points!
I first posted that song way back in August 2015, accompanied by a retelling of one of the many faux pas I’ve committed over the years. Since some of you may not have frequented these pages that long ago, indulge me for a moment whilst I relate this one, which took place circa 1984, as I waited for the school bus and found myself chatting to one of the “cool kids” at school. He liked cool music (i.e. not Quo) and during this conversation he extolled the virtues of ‘Seven Seas’. My response, a rather pathetic and, as it transpired, ill-judged, attempt to ingratiate myself, was to talk at length about the lead singer fire-eating on Top of the Pops and how impressive he was. I realised mid-flow that my conversation piece was attracting some quizzical looks. And that was because I had completely mis-heard him. When he had said ‘Seven Seas’, I had thought he had said this song title:
Not cool, just…not.
Anyway, moving swiftly on, here’s Walter from A Few Good Times in My Life with the scecond song this week that I’ve never heard before. Over to you Walter:
“They might be forgotten but this song is still worth to listen to sometimes…”
Actually, that was Walter’s second suggestion. His first was for an Echo & The Bunnymen track, and I think enough time has passed since the last one to allow me to post his, which needs no introduction:
Which leads us on to a very brief sub-category, those of song titles which repeat, or, you might say, echo themselves. This is by far my favourite category of the week. You’ll see why. Julian from Music from Magazines suggested this, which probably doesn’t need any further explanation:
The Quo, there, demonstrating on the record sleeve their renowned empathy for the Black Power movement.
And that brings to an end that sub-category of song titles which repeat, or, you might say, echo themselves.
You know what I haven’t said for a while? I haven’t said the words: “And here’s the next suggestion of an Echo & the Bunnymen song, this time by *insert name of Chain Gang member here*“. I feel an overwhelming need to say it again. But not just yet. I’ll wait til I’m asked.
And here’s the next suggestion of an Echo & the Bunnymen song, this time by Dirk from sexyloser with the closest we’ve had to a Showboating Suggestion so far:
“Nominated to be one of the world’s most beautiful beaches back in 2012, 2014 and 2015 was Burundi’s coast fronting Lake Tanganyika: if you’ve never been there, you really have missed a treat, I can tell you!
So obviously the correct link can only be Echo & The Burundimen (yes, it’s the Bunnymen in disguise, but still I haven’t made that [name] up, just listen to McCulloch’s intro!) and ‘Zimbo’, the 1982 Shepton Mallet live version though!”
And that does bring us to the end of the Echo section. Except…
Except, you’ll recall that I mentioned five of you had suggested songs by Echo & The Bunnymen, and so far we’ve only had four. Well, GMFree suggested their rather wonderful comeback single ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’ but then ploughed through the entire history of suggestions in The Chain and retracted that on the grounds that it had featured back in #31 so I wouldn’t have been able to allow it. (Oh, and whilst I’m on songs I couldn’t allow – Lynchiefromab, if you check the Comments in the last Chain, you’ll see that I wasn’t sure if yours were suggestions or just recommendations; if the latter then, thank you, and you’re right, but if the former than I couldn’t allow either of them as they contravene rule No. 6: “Suggestions must be more than just naming a different song by the same artist. You’re cleverer than that.” And I know that you are. Sorry!) However, GMFree did propose a different Echo & The Bunnymen track, a cover version, but suggested that I might post the original instead, since the performers have never featured in The Chain before.
In case you’ve no idea what Jules is blethering on about, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy is the best known stage name of Will Oldham, but he has also recorded under variations of the Palace name, including the Palace Brothers, Palace Songs, and Palace Music. As you know, I prefer it if there’s only one suggestion per person for the same band, but since these two versions are so different, and since they were recorded under different monikers, and since I allowed GMFree to suggest more than one tune by Steven Jones last week for the same reason, I guess I’ll have to let it slide this time.
Speaking of GMFree and Steven Jones:
“Mentioning Mr Jones is too easy on this occasion as Babybird was signed to the Echo label, instead I’ll just suggest one track from his 27th (!) album as Black Reindeer…available through Bandcamp.”
Now, I wouldn’t normally buy a track specifically for The Chain, preferring the suggester to provide me with a copy, but I was intrigued by that title so I downloaded that song from the band’s Bandcamp page, as recommended. And shortly afterwards, I got an email from Steven Jones which read: “Ooh a bit topical that purchase Sx”. Which was nice. So I’ll not complain about being out of pocket. This time.
You’d have to have had your head buried in the (beach) sand to not understand what he was referring to, and as it happens, this was not the only track which referenced the forthcoming apocalypse.
“‘Echo Beach’ puts me in mind of the 1959 film ‘On the Beach’, which depicts the aftermath of a devastating nuclear war. (Not a surprising image, considering the current state of affairs, I suppose.) The film stars Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire and Anthony Perkins and is based on Nevil Shute’s 1957 novel. Anyway, as I’ll use any excuse to post some black gospel quartet music, my selection is the 1950 ‘a capella’ version of…”
Well, bar that last little excursion, we appear to not only be in nuclear war related territory – cheerful! – but also Beach related, so let’s have some more of those. And since that last song contains the lyric “Hello New Order!”, it seems appropriate for us to go back and find out what Swiss Adam’s other suggestion was:
“‘Echo Beach’ takes me to the remixed version of Blue Monday from its b-side in ’83…”
So, having exhausted all of the suggestions about echoes, beaches and, of course, Nazis and impending nuclear doom, we’ll move onto something a lot nicer. Back to Martin who suggests this as a double linker:
Which leads me onto this, a track lifted from one of those typically patchy tribute albums that were all the rage once upon a time one of those tribute albums, which were all the rage once upon a time, and which could (typically) be a little on the patchy side (and this one really is patchy).
In case you’re wondering what that’s doing there, give it a listen partly as there’s an extra verse, not in the original, which links to Martin’s last choice, but mostly because it’s an utterly wigged-out mental cover version.
And whilst we’re still on chocolate cake, it’s about time I posted another clip:
Right, that’s Muffins pretty much covered, right?
Well, actually, not quite. Here’s Rol from My Top Ten:
“Muffin was a Mule and a Mule is sort of like an Ass… though very slightly different.” Which brings us to, rather rudely:
Let’s have some Echo Beach/Martha and the Muffins facts to raise the tone a little.
Fact One: Martha and the Muffins are Canadian.
“Plenty of Canadian bands/artist to choose from,” chips in Rigid Digit of Stuff & Nonsense, “including: Rush (but who has time to listen to the whole of Side 1 of ‘2112’?), Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Bryan Adams and Bachman-Turner Overdrive. All too obvious, but this bunch of Canadian one-hit wonders…:”
“Did you know,” pipes up George, inadvertently providing Fact Two, “that Echo Beach has been voted the 35th greatest Canadian song of all time? The greatest song is the execrable song ‘Four Strong Winds’ by Ian and Sylvia, which must surely get the Worst Song vote.”
Well, I’ll happily do that George, although you realise that would mean you’d have to agree the Chas & Dave record is better…? Along with two other songs yet to feature that we all know you’ll hate….?
Four strong winds, you say? Here’s four in varying levels of strength.
The ease and squeeze:
2. The Pant Ripper (a classic):
3. The Preposterously Executed:
and 4. The Accidental Decongestant:
Right, that’s…erm…got that out of my system. More factoids please!
Fact Three, courtesy of babylotti:
“‘Echo Beach’ was released in 1980 on DinDisc records, another record that was released in 1980 on Dindisc records, and one that I still have (okay, it was a re-release in 1980, but that’s the one I have) is…:
Before we get on to the final category, time for those two songs which George won’t like, the first of which is suggested by Alyson, and I think this one wins the award for Comment Showboat of the week (or have I already awarded that? I don’t know, I’m tired…). George, sorry, I was going to leave these two till last to make it easier for you to ignore them, but thematically they kind of need to be posted earlier.
Anyway, here’s Alyson’s suggestion:
“Martha’s Vineyard is actually a small island off the State of Massachusetts. It faces out onto the Atlantic and it’s where they filmed ‘Jaws’. The fake shark they used for the movie was given the name Bruce.” Which leads us to:
And so on to the final category, songs which link to Martha. And we’ll start off with my own double-linker for the week.
There’s a well known phrase in certain communities: “Is he Arthur or Martha?”. Well, here’s an Arthur, Arthur Lee to be precise, and he and his band are going to sing a Love-Lee song which has an Echo/Repeat/Again link too. Points please!
“First thought – got Martha on my mind now so I’d like to offer one of those songs that surely everybody knows and surely everybody likes? What better time for an office clerk with a very boring job to go down to Echo Beach than during a heatwave, too?”
Next up on the oche is The Robster from Is This The Life? Now, a few weeks ago, Rob announced that he was thinking about stopping writing his blog as he was feeling devoid of inspiration and was just going through the motions. I’ve often felt the same about this place, and I know others in our little blogging community have too. You may not know that Rob lives not a million miles away from where I used to in South Wales, and I love his blog for it keeps me in touch with what’s going on down in and around my old stomping ground so I’m delighted that he’s decided – for now – to keep going, albeit with less frequent posts.
I mention all this not to put any unintentional pressure on him to carry on, but because having cut back on his posts he seems to have gone a bit stir crazy, suggesting “I’m a Man” by The Spencer Davis Group on the basis that Martha & The Muffins were an all-male band. Getting confused by that whole “Arthur or Martha” issue there, I think.
To be fair, Rob did correct himself almost immediately (with a little help from Alex G, who I can confirm is not a qualified doctor, but is a very keen enthusiast), and redeemed himself by suggesting this, another of the records I’d never heard before, and which I’m really quite pleased that I have now. And it’s a double pointer, featuring as it does a Martha and “two items you might see at a beach”:
Time for Abramson60 next, who…erm…echoes some of the sentiments raised earlier:
“Looks like things are getting worse and worse US of A side, can it really get any worse? My suggestion this week could well be aimed at that excuse for a human being, Trump. No need to explain the link?”
Nope, but this young lady certainly needs to wash her potty-mouth out with soap and water:
Another from Alex G now, who suggests “…a lovely song which is never played on the radio because if it was, everybody would stop what they were doing to listen, at a cost to the UK economy of several squillion pounds.”
I agree, it is a lovely song, although I suspect were it played more often, people would stop what they were doing to remember when – and I’m sorry to bring it up again (I’m not in the least bit sorry, as it goes) – this happened:
More from Rol next, who suggests this next song on the grounds that a) it has the word “Martha” in the title, b) it doesn’t have any other words in the title, and c) he “…can’t believe nobody’s suggested it yet…”
And the presidential links don’t end there, for there was also of course Martha Jefferson, wife to Thomas, who became 3rd President of The United States in 1801. Martha would have been the third First Lady, had she not rather inconveniently died in 1782. Anyway, this Martha leads me to this ground-breaking house record from 1986:
And the other is…well, Mrs GMFree was not alone in suggesting it, for it was also proposed by Rigid Digit (and I thought one other person too, but I’m buggered if I can spot who it was now. If you suggested it and I have omitted to credit you, make yourself known and I’ll amend this bit).
Which means that for the first time ever, we have two people correctly guessing the next record in The Official Chain, which, with the simple explanation of “From one Martha to another…” is this:
So to wrap things up, your suggestions, please, for songs which link to “Martha My Dear” by The Beatles, along with a brief description of the link, via the Comments Section down below, in time for the next edition. Whenever that might be.